Leonid Maksimovich Leonov Analysis


In some of Leonid Maksimovich Leonov’s most celebrated works, written early in his career, problems of good and evil are set against a background of political upheaval during crucial periods in Soviet history. Thus, his fiction serves to document and explore the dislocation of values and traditions and the blurring of moral distinctions that followed from the social reorganization begun by the Russian Revolution. Leonov’s work deals largely with the political implications of criminal acts.

In spite of ideological objections that occasionally have been expressed by those in official positions, in his own country Leonov’s work generally was accepted as politically sound by those who determined Soviet literary standards. While adhering basically to the criteria established by Soviet authorities, he produced works that also represent original, deeply personal approaches to literature. The success of Leonov’s works disproves some critics’ contention that political requirements precluded the acceptance of crime fiction among Soviet readers.


Burg, David. “Leonid Leonov’s Search.” Studies on the Soviet Union 1, no. 3 (1962): 120-136. Commentary on the personal projects and investments informing Leonov’s life and work.

Harjan, George. Leonid Leonov: A Critical Study. Toronto, Ont.: Arowhena, 1979. One of the few book-length studies of Leonov written in English. Bibliography and index.

Muchnic, Helen. “Leonid Leonov.” In From Gorky to Pasternak: Six Writers in Soviet Russia. New York: Random House, 1961. Argues for Leonov’s place among the great Soviet writers of the twentieth century.

Olcott, Anthony. Russian Pulp: The Detektiv and the Russian Way of Crime. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001. Extended American study of the peculiarities of Russian crime fiction and the distinctive Russian and Soviet approaches to the detective genre.

Plank, D. L. “Unconscious Motifs in Leonid Leonov’s The Badgers.” Slavic and East European Journal 16, no. 1 (1972): 19-35. Discussion of the representation of the unconscious and of unconscious modes of representation in Leonov’s earliest mystery novel.

Simmons, Ernest J. “Leonid Leonov.” In Russian Fiction and Soviet Ideology: Introduction to Fedin, Leonov, and Sholokhov. New York: Columbia University Press, 1958. Discusses the ideological pressures on Leonov and his response to them in his writing.

Soviet Literature. No. 11 (1986). Special issue devoted to Leonov and his place in the Soviet canon.

Starikova, Yekaterina. Leonid Leonov. Translated by Joy Jennings. Moscow: Raduga, 1986. This English translation of Starikova’s extended biography of the writer and critical study of his works is accompanied by a translation of Leonov’s essay, “On Craftsmanship,” which illuminates his approach to the craft of writing.

Thomson, R. D. B. “The Lean Years of Leonid Leonov.” Canadian-American Slavic Studies 8, no. 4 (1974): 513-524. Discussion of Leonov’s least successful period, the reasons behind his lack of success, and his response to failure.